Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale retained nothing but its title in this free-for-all spoof of the successful James Bond industry.
Though the book was the first of the Bond thrillers to appear in print, the film chose to feature 007 as an ageing agent who comes out of retirement when asked to help curtail the deadly activities of an organisation known as SMERSH.
SMERSH have begun to sabotage global stability, and no less than eleven agents have been lost.
“M” (John Huston) and the heads of the CIA and KGB have one alternative left to them assist them; the legendary secret agent Sir James Bond (David Niven).
After the death of “M”, Bond is lured out of retirement to re-establish himself as the world’s greatest spy.
Bond is given command of MI6 and finds himself pitched against SMERSH’s arch-villain Le Chiffre (Orson Welles).
Bond launches his brilliant plan to confuse the enemy by employing several agents – all of them named James Bond. He instructs Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers), an incompetent author on card games, to enter Casino Royale and engage in a showdown against master card player and adversary, Le Chiffre.
After more witless vignettes – some funny, others tedious – Bond finally learns that the real villain is none other than sex-obsessed Dr Noah – who turns out to be Bond’s own inept nephew, Jimmy (Woody Allen).
Jimmy’s plan for world domination involves making all women beautiful and annihilating all men taller than four-foot-six!
Frankly, the film was a self-indulgent mess – an inferior Monty Python sketch stretched way beyond its limits. It featured a record number of loopy spy film clichés skewering the James Bond mythos – all wrapped up in candy-coloured, ‘swinging-sixties’ psychedelic wrapping.
A 1960s who’s-who of old and new hip stars appeared in the movie, including Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, William Holden, Jacqueline Bisset and John Huston. Apparently, most of the stars were not aware when they signed on that this was a comedy spoof, not a straight James Bond movie.
The film also boasted almost as many directors as cast members. The stress of making the chaotic film proved so much for producer Charles K Feldman that he developed heart problems that ultimately killed him a year later.
Burt Bacharach provided arguably his loveliest score ever, highlighted by Dusty Springfield‘s heavenly The Look of Love.
Fleming’s Casino Royale story was finally filmed as a serious Bond drama in 2006 with Daniel Craig as 007 and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre.
Evelyn Tremble (James Bond, 007)
Vesper Lynd (007)
Sir James Bond
The Detainer (007)
Jimmy Bond (Dr Noah)
Agent Mimi/Lady Fiona
Cooper (James Bond, 007)
Capt Carlton Towers FO
British Army Officer
John Le Mesurier